The fatal shooting of a 15-year-old girl and several other shootings this summer prompted Patricia Ciccone, superintendent of the technical high school system, to take steps to improve safety. Ciccone is partnering with Bridgeport schools to install metal detectors and implement other provisions to prevent any more deaths.
“The whole city is trying to respond the best they can to all of this really unfortunate violence and the deaths of a lot of young people this summer,” Ciccone said last week during a phone interview.
Bullard-Havens Technical High School is one of the Bridgeport schools that is newly equipped with metal detectors. The equipment seems to be getting the approval of many.
“I am hearing that both parents and students are very grateful that the school has undertaken these extra measures of security,” Ciccone said.
Ciccone has spoken to people who want to implement these new security measures in more Bridgeport schools.
“We, in accordance to with recommendations for the local authorities and the Bridgeport school district, put in four metal detectors,” Ciccone told the state Board of Education last week. “Students are now accustomed to coming in through the doors. Ninth and 10th grade through one area and 11th and 12th through another.”
In addition to Bullard-Havens, Warren Harding High School, a public high school with a population of about 1,545 students, also has a metal detector and it’s the school Ciccone consulted when she decided to implement them in her school.
In 2009, Bullard-Havens had 886 students and a reported 141 incidents; Harding reported 1,508 incidents, according to the Connecticut State Department of Education’s most recent data. These incidents ranged from possession of drugs and weapons to fighting, battery, property damage, and verbal confrontations.
It’s unclear how many schools in Connecticut have metal detectors since it’s not something any organization, including the state Education Department, tracks.
Vincent Mustaro, a staff member at the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said that metal detectors come under the legal procedure of search and seizure.
“A school needs justifiable reasoning for implementing them such as a pattern of weapons,” Mustaro said.
But with Bridgeport’s death toll at 17 since the start of the year, according to Bridgeport police, the reasoning is in the statistics.
As well as undergoing search and seizure, students at Bullard-Havens must adhere to a revised dress code which prohibits gang fashions. Students also may encounter a drug-sniffing dog as stated in the 2012-2013 Connecticut Technical High School system student/parent handbook. This procedure is to prevent the use or sale of drugs on school grounds, according to the handbook.
A curfew also was put into effect May 30 by Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. Minors must be home between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursdays and are allowed to be out until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Parents can be fined up to $90 if their children are out past those hours.
Since the start of 2012-13 school year, Ciccone says she hasn’t heard of any weapons being seized from students.
Last week she told the state Board of Education about the new installations and policies.
“A tremendous amount of work was done over the summer,” Ciccone said. “We pulled a tremendous effort to beef up security: Re-keying and locks and doors being inspected. Cameras were installed throughout the building and the outside; video surveillance is now possible.”